Celanese Historical Marker Unveiled on Plant Site as Celriver Legacy Project Fundraising Campaign Launched
The Celanese Celriver Plant, which operated as one of York County’s largest employers from 1948 to 2005, is now a chapter in SC’s history.
A South Carolina State historical marker will be unveiled at 2 p.m. June 1 on the site of the former Celanese Celriver plant and of the new “Celriver Legacy Plaza.” The Plaza will be located in the new Riverwalk Development, beside the new YMCA and adjacent to the Giordana Velodrome. A new hotel is also planned adjacent to the Celriver Plaza. Most of the plant has been demolished to clear the way for the new Riverwalk mixed-use development. Only a small Celanese administrative building remains on the site, and it too will soon be demolished to make way for construction at the development.
A fundraising campaign also will be officially launched by Ed Ewald, Chair of the Celriver Legacy Project Committee, a charitable organization, created in 2014 by former Plant and corporate supporters interested in preserving the history of the Celriver plant. This facility became a hallmark for York County’s early success in attracting a diversity of employees and industries to the county. The mission of the project is to preserve the legacy of the Celanese Celriver facility, the people who worked there, and their significant contributions to the history and economy of the community. Project goals are to (1) establish a permanent public plaza on the site of the former plant with information kiosks, sculptures of employees and plant equipment, a poem about the Celriver plant inscribed in the pavement, and pavers with the names of former employees, corporate supporters, and donors, (2) publish a pictorial history book depicting the operations of the plant and the role of its employees over its nearly 60-year history, and (3) establish an endowed college scholarship targeted for the descendants of Celriver employees. York County Natural Gas Authority has committed to fund a college scholarship at York Tech.
Ewald, former Celriver plant manager, will announce that the campaign has raised over $220,000 to date to underwrite construction of the Celriver Legacy Plaza, and plans to begin construction in the fall of 2016 after the conclusion of the fundraising campaign in July. Another $100,000 to $130,000 will be needed to implement the objectives of the project. An official funding goal for the project will be established in June once a Campaign Steering Committee has been appointed.
Michael Scoggins, historian for the York County Culture and Heritage Museums, who has been instrumental in securing the state marker, will unveil the new historical marker, located beside the site of the planned Celriver Plaza. Scoggins also has authored the pictorial history book to be published in June. Entitled “A Miracle of Modern Technology, the Celanese Celriver Plant, 1947 – 2005,” it will include many historic photos of the plant over its almost 60 years of operation. Historic Rock Hill was also instrumental in getting the Celriver Legacy Project started by sharing its experience and resources.
The Celriver Legacy Project was envisioned as early as seven years ago. The Project, a 501(c )(3) charitable organization, began raising funds about 18 months ago, primarily from former Celriver employees. By early 2016, the project had raised about $150,000, and the current “phase 2”of the campaign began on April 15 to complete the fundraising. The project committee, chaired by Ewald and manned by other former Celriver employees, retained Carl Elliott, Research Development, to complete the fundraising by July. The group plans to begin construction in the fall, in conjunction with the City of Rock Hill and the Riverwalk developer, the Assured Group. The City plans to add new bleachers to the Velodrome and a hospitality area adjoining the Legacy Plaza.
Mayor Pro Tem Ann Williamson is scheduled to speak on behalf of the City of Rock Hill. The Celriver Legacy Plaza ties in with the City’s overall strategy of preserving the history of the textile industry in Rock Hill, including renovation projects of closed textile facilities in the downtown area, along Dave Lyle Boulevard and now with the Celriver Legacy Project at the new Riverwalk Development. The new Pump House Restaurant at Riverwalk utilizes one of the few remaining buildings of the Celanese Celriver corporate complex, which once encompassed 1,100 acres along the Catawba River.
State Representative Ralph Norman, scheduled to speak at the event, recalled earlier how his father, Warren Norman, had been attracted to Rock Hill in 1948 because of the new plant. Norman said his father moved to Rock Hill because he had read about the new plant. Ralph Norman said that his father decided to start his new real estate development company in Rock Hill because “that’s where the people are,” referring to all of the new employees to be hired by the Celanese plant. At its peak, the plant employed 2,300 employees working on three shifts. Ralph Norman’s mother also worked in the plant briefly after the Normans moved to Rock Hill.
“Celanese is the reason many of us are here in Rock Hill,” Norman said. “People in the community need to be connected to the Celriver Legacy Project, because it occupies an important place in York County’s economic growth from then until the present. It’s certainly a worthwhile project that deserves the community’s support.”
In addition to over 120 individual contributors, corporate sponsors of the Celriver Legacy Project to date include:
· Arrowpointe Federal Credit Union,
· Celanese Foundation,
· Williams & Fudge,
· Rock Hill Coca Cola Bottling Co.,
· Sharonview Federal Credit Union,
· Warren Norman Co.,
· David White, Attorney at Law,
· Burkett, Burkett & Burkett, CPAs,
· York County Natural Gas Authority,
· South State Bank,
· The Pump House Restaurant,
· Pbi Performance Fibers,
· Infinite Wellness Center,
· Rinehart Realty,
· Pete’s BBQ
· Morton and Gettys LLC,
· Celanese Celco Plant,
· Homes in the Piedmont,
· J. M. Cope Construction Co.
· Celanese Acetate Business Unit,
· Brakefield, LLC, and
· HardyHarris Media & Marketing.
For those wishing to make a contribution, call Carl Elliott at 803-324-3411.
Wording on Historical Marker
Celanese Celriver Plant
This plant, once called “a miracle of modern technology,” produced synthetic yarn and fibers for clothing, synthetic flakes for making plastic household and industrial goods, and other synthetics from 1948 to 2005. The Celanese Corporation of America chose this 1,100-acre site on the Catawba River for its capacity of 100 million gallons of water a day. The plant began operations in 1948.
The plant had its own power plant, water purification and treatment plants, and chemical recycling. It was long among the largest employers in York Co., with an average of 1,600 and a peak of 2,300. Its work force was unionized, unlike most SC industries. At one time this plant was one of the largest producers of synthetic yarns in the US. As global demand for its products slowed, Celanese Celriver closed in 2005.